Playlist 14: Cue the Wanderlust

Elena here reporting from Ireland! For the last several days I have been basking in the beauty of the Emerald Isle, spending relaxing time with Ben and enjoying some unseasonably warm weather. I am having the time of my life, and continue to be reminded about how lucky I am to have another chance to travel to such an incredible place, spend time with Ben, and enjoy a new adventure.

I have been on some awesome trips in my life, to all different areas of the U.S. and a few different countries as well. This should come as no surprise that there have been some musical memories that I’ve made along with these trips that have stuck with me years later and will forever make me think of that particular place. Here we go...

© 2002 Microsoft Corporation

Hitting the Road

“Opening Suite” (Theme Song from Halo)
Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori

For Day 1, I had to start things off the same way that my brother and I start off every single road trip we’ve been on since we could drive- with the theme song from Halo. 

On our road trips, either he or I drive, even when our parents are with us, A) because we’re adults and B) so that we can play our music through the speakers and not have to battle with our dad about the volume. I’m not sure why this tradition started (oh that’s right, because this song is epic), but now at the beginning of every road trip we cue up this song and play it just as we’re merging onto the highway.

Not only do we have some subconscious coordinated dance moves, but we also have designated instruments and parts. He plays the bass towards the beginning, and the fluttering violins that come in midway through the song are all mine. I don’t think we’ve ever explained this tradition to anyone else, except maybe the handful of friends that have gone roadtrippin’ with us.

The secret is out, folks. You’re officially on the road with me for my travel adventures.

© 2005 Asthmatic Kitty Records ©2005 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP

Chicago (June, 2009)

Sufjan Stevens

This introduction alone brings me right back to, you guessed it, my trip to Chicago. I went with my brother and two of our friends back in 2009, which was the first big trip I went on without any “parental supervision.” Needless to say I felt very adult and free, which probably acted as a catalyst for the growing list of trips I’ve taken over the next 8 years.

This song gives me so much energy, is so uplifting for me, and has an airy quality that makes me feel like I’m floating in the clouds. I guess the word would be blissful; this song makes me feel blissful in my reminiscing on an incredible adventure. We drove to Chi-town (as the song lyrics suggest), hitting some bumps along the road. My car gave us a warning of low tire pressure in between Hazelton and Mountain Top, PA (aka the middle of nowhere).

Having never gotten that warning before, we called the car manufacturer in a bit of a panic. The woman on the phone assumed that my brother and I were married because we have the same last name (as many people did back in the day), and was actually of very little help from what I remember. She told us to find a repair shop or gas station to get it checked out, which were sparse in Drums, Pennsylvania.

We found a spot, pulled in, and found out they were closed for an hour for lunch. By then the panic had subsided and the whole thing became a big joke, something that we were able to laugh about and that we still remember today. This song brings me right back to that trip, and to the awesome video compilation that my brother put together afterwards as well.

℗ 1977 Sire Records, Inc.

London (January, 2011)

“Psycho Killer”
The Talking Heads

In the winter session before I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, my friends and I decided to study literature in London for three weeks. They basically said, “we’re going, you should come too,” so I registered myself and jumped right in. Not much planning was involved, which added to the excitement of the whole experience on top of the fact that I had never been out of the country before! I was nervous, I had a roommate who I didn’t know (and wound up being an interesting and memorable part of the experience), and aside from my two friends, I did not know a single other soul in our class.

I was happy to have my two other musketeers with me, and after some time getting comfortable, we warmed up to several of our fellow classmates. We all began exploring together, going on excursions and finding fun bars and clubs to check out at night. We landed upon a spot called The Roxy one evening. We went in for a few drinks, came to find out the place was absolutely deserted and took it as an invitation to tear up the dance floor and take advantage of the speedy bar service. This place was tiny, very dark, and a little odd, which made it perfect for our motley crew.

“Psycho Killer” came on and one of the guys (who I am now great friends with and who has also been dating my best friend for somewhere close to half a decade) was stoked. I had never heard the song before and thought it was pretty terrible (still do), but it now cracks me up when I hear it and makes me remember that night at The Roxy. We’ve had a few “Psycho Killer” moments since 2011, all of which are goofy and ridiculous, but I like having that little inside joke that we developed at the beginning of our friendship.

Fast forward a few months to the summer of 2011…

CDBaby The Hollow · Tall Heights Rafters ℗ 2011 Tall Heights Released on: 2011-09-13

Boston/Cape Cod (Summer, 2011)

“The Hollow”
Tall Heights

I had graduated, felt like I had the whole world at my fingertips, and wanted to get away again! My best friend Alex and I set off for a long weekend in Boston and Cape Cod: very romantic and quaint if I do say so myself. We wanted a place that was close to home, easy to get to, full of things to do but also full of opportunities to do absolutely nothing.

Boston was perfect. We did some tourist-y things, like visiting the Sam Adams Brewery and going to Quincy Market, and spent time at the beach and going for walks. On a sunny afternoon, we grabbed ourselves lunch at Quincy Market and sat down to enjoy the eclectic street performers that surrounded us. And then, a bright beam of sunlight shone down on two dreamy men who were playing a guitar and a cello. Of course, we were intrigued by the cello and their incredible harmonies, so we made our way closer to them and enjoyed their mini-concert.

At some point between bites of seafood macaroni and cheese and sips of lemonade, we developed serious crushes. We came to learn that they’re called Tall Heights, and like awkward teenagers we bought CDs and made terrible small talk about how great their music was. We also signed up for their email list to get updates about the performances, which in retrospect didn’t make much sense since they were Boston-based, but has actually wound up coming in handy.

They’ve been getting some recognition for their music lately (they appeared on Conan O’Brien), and Alex and I have actually seen them several times in hip little venues in New York City. We still hold on to the idea that we could one day join up with Tall Heights and make a magical, musical quartet. We know this whole song, harmonies and all, so we’re prepared… I’m just saying.

℗ 2016 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

Ireland (January, 2017)

“My Way”
Calvin Harris

Last but not least, I bring you to Ireland. No, Calvin Harris is not Irish, but this does remind me of my most recent trip to the beautiful island. Ben (the boyfriend) is a massive fan of dance music, something uptempo and with a pulse to it. I like dance songs that make it to the radio, with a little more of a pop-y flare, but beyond that, my knowledge base is pretty limited.

I happily took on the role of DJ on our long car rides to new destinations, and when he’d ask me to put on “something with a beat,” I admittedly had very few options to choose from. I cycled between Calvin Harris, the one Martin Garrix song I happened to have on my iPod, and “Red Lights” by Tiesto. I’m surprised he didn’t get sick of my picks, because it felt like I played “My Way” every time we were in the car, but either way he was a good sport.

Though I don’t know much about dance music and DJs, I do love this song, so I was glad that he didn’t complain about my overplaying it. We would both sing along to it and bop around a little (being too shy at that point to sing out loud), and I remember feeling really happy that he liked what I was playing. I take a lot of pride in having an eclectic selection of music (I have since acquired more dance tunes to beef up my inventory), and with there being a lot of newness and unknowns built into this trip, having some commonality with music made me extremely happy and content.

Finishing up with Calvin Harris brings me right into the present moment, back in Ireland, back as DJ in Ben’s car. Stay tuned next week for a new twist to “Being In Tune.”

What songs remind you of your travels?
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